Normal behaviour for a newborn
All newborn babies will behave in different ways (as adults do), and while many books (and even this website) will try to give new parents guides about how their baby will behave, it is rare that someone can provide all the answers.
We know how unnerving it can be to be faced with a baby who cries inconsolably, or appears irritable after their birthing experience. We also know how amazing it can be to see a baby looking around, alert and interested in their surroundings. Some babies will cry very loudly, others will be quiet and a few will simply fuss and be unsettled. Most will need about 20 to 40 minutes to become accustomed with their new environment.
The following information is aimed at providing a range of normal newborn behaviour soon after birth. Some common behaviours of newborn babies can include:
Alert and crying
During the first hour of life, the majority of babies will cry initially and then be alert and interested in their surroundings. They may continue to cry lustily on and off until they are wrapped or held closely by their parents or once they are given their first feed.
Some babies will feed straight away while most aren't ready until 20 - 40 minutes after the birth. It is ideal to get your baby to feed in this early time as many babies will fall into a deep sleep for up to 6 to 12 hours after the birth (giving them and mum a rest). But make sure you're not pressured into giving your first breastfeed.
Quiet and awake
Some babies will be very quiet and alert, happily looking around and taking in their new surroundings. They will usually lie quietly in your arms or on their mother's belly, only stirring when they are ready to feed.
Sleepy and drowsy
A few babies will be sleepy or drowsy at birth and possibly not interested in feeding or visually connecting with their parents. This may be from the baby having a residue of narcotic drugs used by the mother for pain relief during the labour or if a general anaesthetic was needed for a Caesarean birth.
If your baby is sleepy you can hold them close, giving them skin to skin contact to reassure and connect with them. If the woman is too tired or not wishing to do this, the partner or support person could.
Fussy and whinging
A few babies will seem fussy and unsettled soon after birth, wanting to constantly feed or not appearing to be comforted with anything that you may do or try. Some babies will take a while to 'get the hang' of feeding, searching for a feed but pulling away from the breast after only a few sucks or an unsuccessful latch.
They may be like this for a few hours, until they exhaust themselves and fall asleep. Some will doze on and off every 30 minutes to an hour or so wanting to be fed or comforted. Wrapping them and holding them close so they can hear your familiar heart beat can sometimes help, if you do not feel up to this or ready to hold your baby ask your partner or support person to take them for a while. If they have gone home your caregiver may nurse the baby for a while!